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Teen clarinettist wins shul musical award

Tags: Arts
Lily Chapnik [Shane Murphy photo]

TORONTO — Lily Chapnik, 17, a clarinettist who is a student at the Schulich School of Music at McGill University, will be honoured with Temple Sinai’s Ben Steinberg Musical Legacy Award.

The award presentation and the recital that follows are open to the public and will take place at Temple Sinai in Toronto on May 16.

Chapnik is one of the youngest recipients of the award. “Most winners are on the threshold of their career, usually well into their 20s, and ready to begin their professional careers,” said Ben Steinberg, who the award was named after, when he retired as Temple Sinai’s director of music after 26 years.

“Occasionally someone comes along who is much younger, like Lily. It’s rare to see someone of that age play with such maturity.”

Music runs in Chapnik’s genes. Her grandmother, Atarah Ben-Tovim, is a renowned flautist. When Chapnik was eight years old, she went to France to visit her grandmother. “She took one look at me after I got off the plane and said, ‘You’re a clarinet player now,’” Chapnik recalled.

“She taught me rudimentary clarinet that summer and I loved it right away.” She returned to Toronto and began clarinet studies with a private teacher, Igor Guletsky. She now studies with Michael Dumouchel, a member of the Montreal Symphony Orchestra.  Her talent and dedication paid off. At the age of 12, she accompanied her grandmother to England to perform a concerto with the National Symphony Orchestra. She has also been a member of the Toronto Symphony Youth Orchestra and was admitted as the youngest member of the Toronto Youth Wind Orchestra at the age of 12. Her interests include chamber music and klezmer music.

Now she is pursuing a double degree in music and Judaic studies at McGill, while also playing in McGill’s symphony orchestra. When she heard she won the Ben Steinberg award, she was ecstatic.

“I was really happy that it was a Jewish award because it bridges all my interests into one. It was really exciting because I will perform at my own recital as a prize, which is quite an undertaking and they really help you with it,” she said.

Joining Chapnik at her recital will be her grandmother, who is presenting the award, and a flute quartet made up of Chapnik’s professor and two other flute students.

The Ben Steinberg award was established in 1984 to encourage the careers of Jewish artists in the Toronto community and beyond, and to feature works of music by Jewish composers.

“There was a time when the Jewish community was much more represented in the musical industry,” said Steinberg. He hoped this award would encourage Jewish children to pursue a career in music. 

Many of the past winners have gone on to perform in major symphony orchestras in Montreal and Boston. “To win an award like this, you have to be pretty capable and talented,” said Steinberg, who will work with Chapnik to prepare her for the recital.

Chapnik has used her talent to help others. In 2008 and 2009, she organized and performed in two recitals, which raised funds for music scholarships and for a Zimbabwe orphanage, through Advocates for Humanity.

For Chapnik, being a clarinet player is a chance to provide people with a unique musical experience.

“I love that once you really know the notes and you don’t have to worry about messing up, you can focus on the music and on just delivering a musical message to your audience, taking them on a musical journey with you. That’s what good performing is all about, in my opinion,” she said.

This article appears in the April 5 print issue of The CJN

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